Drive The Future—Formula E Racing

On March 19, 2015, the Computer History Museum had a talk on Drive The Future — FIA Formula E Racing featuring Alejandro Agag, the CEO of Formula E Holdings being interviewed by the Computer History Museum CEO, John Hollar. #CHMFormulaE
  • There are ten cities, one a month, that are on the Formula E racing circuit. They are Miami, Long Beach, Buenos Aires, Punta Del Este, London, Berlin, Monaco, Moscow, Beijing and Putrajaya.
  • My most famous quote is “If people don’t call me crazy, I’m not working hard enough.”
  • The idea for Formula E came at a Paris dinner. A senior politician stated that there was something missing in racing. We were all motor sport people. And yes, the first business plan was written on a napkin in the finest Silicon Valley tradition.
  • I have four kids. I worry about them and the environment.
  • Electric cars are better, more practical and go faster, and are good for society.
  • FIA (International Automotive Association) is the official worldwide automotive racing organization. Formula One is the most famous racing program that it sanctions.
  • Formula One has driven advancements in automotive technology, e.g. fuel injection, turbocharging, aluminum engines, four-valve heads, and carbon fiber brakes.
  • FIA has given Formula E a 25-year license for all electric racing, using batteries, fuel cells or other electric power sources.
  • Formula E has ten racing teams or franchises. Michael Andretti (USA) was the first to sign up. Subsequently, United Kingdom (Virgin), France (Renault), India (Mahindra), Japan (Amlin Aguri), China, Italian, Germany (Audi), and Switzerland (Trulli).
  • The objective of Formula E is to create technology competition, but to limit the cost.
  • Currently teams share the same car body, tires and battery. They are allowed to compete on the basis of different power trains. (Eight of the teams have their own power trains, the other two are using a complete kit). There is no sharing between teams.
  • Already teams are recovering 20% energy, whereas we had expected they would only be able to recovery 10 to 12%.
  • Initial Formula E cars have borrowed from Formula One hybrid technology, in particular the ability to quickly discharge a battery.
  • Frank Williams, age 80, states that battery cooling is very challenging.
  • A Formula E car is 16’6” long and 4’1” wide. It cost $10M to develop and each car costs $1M.
  • Dallara constructs the monocoque chassis that is made rom carbon fiber and aluminum.
  • The 772 lb 32 KW battery drives a 57 lb motor. During racing they last 30 minutes. Hence drivers charge cars midway through an hour long race. It is not practical to change batteries since they are very encapsulated.
  • The characteristics of a Formula E race have been established to put on a fun, good show. The cars can go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds. They have a maximum speed of 145 mph, but perhaps could go 160 mph if the wing was adjusted. At full speed they make about 80 dB of noise, as compared to 125 dB from a Formula One car.
  • The driver can control energy discharge levels from one to six. We don’t provide a battery level in the car. The driver must be clever in managing their energy levels.
  • The tires don’t get changed during a race, in fact they need to last the entire season.
  • A common generator is used to charge all the cars at a race in 50 minutes. The glycerine fuel was developed by Greenergy/Aquafuel.
  • Qualcomm has developed a wireless charging system that is used to charge the pace car.
  • Energy regeneration and the motor is the focus of the second season of racing. In years three and four, the battery technology will be opened up. Currently the battery provides 32 KW, but we anticipate 36 and 37 KW batteries will become available. By year 5, we hope to have batteries that can support hour long car races.
  • Right now our cars could go as fast as Formula One cars, but the races would only last 40 minutes. We have a number of former Formula One drivers; but we are not part of the Formula One ladder in which drivers at lower level sanctioned competitions can work their way up to compete in Formula One.
  • We made a decision to have our races in city centers. We want to bring races to the fans. In part this is because in the United States there is NASCAR and Indy cars. We needed to be different.
  • Why only one race a month? The cars have to get through customs, we have to erect walls along the course; all for a one day event.
  • A popular promotion has been the fan boost. Fans can vote on their favorite cars. The top three cars get two, five-second boosts that can be used in a race. Now the FIA thinks this isn’t very sporting, but we find it really boosts fan engagement.
  • We provide realtime biometric driver information to our fans. Right now this is hear beat and driver stress, but we expect it to steadily increase.
  • The Stone Age ended when they ran out of stones.
  • For the ten races, the Long Beach and Monaco races will be free. We are also having a young adult race where miniature versions of the cars are raced by kids before the main event. This has been very popular.
  • We expect that Formula One and Formula E will eventually race against each other.
  • The Formula E car currently has 7 gears. Future cars may not need any gears.
  • Why isn’t Tesla participating in Formula E? Right now Elon Musk wants to focus on its own cars.
  • We would like a race in San Francisco. However 180 cities from around the world have requested having a Formula E race.
  • How could Silicon Valley help us the most? Providing a better battery!

OpenStack Disrupts Vendor Clouds

The March 17, 2015 Vlab meeting was on OpenStack and how it is allowing the commoditization of the corporate data center—infrastructure as a service. In essence, it is bringing the power of the cloud to the enterprise. #Vlabdatactr
  • The moderator was Peter Christy, research director at 451 Research. He observed that OpenStack is a big deal. Companies like Dell are screwed if it fails. They have little choice since it is a case of do or die. It is very much like Darwinian evolution after the Cambrian species explosion.
  • OpenStack is the largest and fastest growing open source project in history. There are 150 companies developing OpenStack products. They include HP, IBM and Red Hat.
  • The first 50 years of computing was marked by steadily increasing diversity since 1945. But the last 15 years have been marked by increasing infrastructure extinction. We have Google, followed by AWS (on-demand computing). The convergence on the x86 and ARM architectures. The iPhone and Android user interfaces.
  • Open Stack is an alternate platform so everything doesn’t collapse into one. Venture funding has steadily been increasing for Open Stack companies.
  • Open Stack prospers when faster and more local solutions are needed. It represents an alternative to Amazon.
  • In Europe, telecommunication companies are the major enterprise partners.
  • 80% of private infrastructure runs on VMware
  • For startups, AWS (Amazon Web Services) are a no brainer. It makes deploying IT more agile.
  • For enterprises, it is difficult to integrate their existing operations with AWS.
  • OpenStack consists of compute, storage and network components. For example, Plumgrid is a OpenStack network provider of SDN (software defined networking) products. SwiftStack is a company that provides OpenStack object storage software.
  • Joe Arnold is the president of SwiftStack. He notes that while Amazon eats children, the Enterprise adopts children. They had an initial seed round of $1.5M, followed by A and B rounds that have raised a total of $23.6M.
  • SwiftStack is subscription licensed software. It enables open source with control and flexibility.
  • Chris Kemp is the founder of Nebula. It provides an integrated hardware and software appliance that provides distributed compute, storage, and network services in a unified system.
  • Chris while at NASA Ames, was the founder of the Open Stack with Rackspace in 2010. At the time, out of a $18B NASA budget, $2B was being spent on IT. Due to having two substations on the base due to the former usage of wind tunnels, NASA got its electricity at 8 to 9 cents per KW. At the time, it had plenty of land (this was prior to leasing it all to Google). It also had excellent Internet connectivity. There were also a lot of Sun and Google people willing to contribute to it.
  • Eucalyptus was open sourced and written in Python. It helped automate provisioning by allowing sites with existing clusters and server infrastructure to co-host an elastic computing service that is interface-compatible with Amazon’s EC2.
  • Alex Freedland is the co-founder of Mirantis. There has been a shift in cloud computing economics. The OS has to be open. The Open Stack ecosystem is rapidly evolving.
  • Simone Brunozzi is the vice-president and chief technologist of the hybrid cloud at VMware. he observes that OpenStack has a lot of momentum behind it. VMware has its own distribution of OpenStack that it provides on top of the VMware environment.
  • Jacques Benkoski is a partner at US Ventures Partners. He has been there since 2005. They are currently on their 11th fund. They have invested in OpenStack companies, in particular PlumGrid. He notes that if OpenStack doesn’t happen, $1 trillion disappears from the economy. The effect of OpenStack is to make hardware a commodity.
  • Amazon won’t buy from any of our companies; whatever they do, they have a huge multiplier scale on their labor being widely amortized across all of their deployments.

Psychology of Effort by Angela Duckworth and David Yeager

The CASBS symposium on the Psychology of Effort was held on March 5, 2013 at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University. The speakers were Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and David Yeager of the University of Texas at Austin. Both are 2014-2015 CASBS scholars. Angela is also a 2013 McArthur Fellow. Their research has been funded by the Mindset Scholars Network and the Rakes Foundation. #CASBS
  • Angela’s research indicates that students typically have the intellect to learn a subject, rather it requires effort to learn it.
  • What is grit? It is sustained passion and perseverance for especially long term goals—often taking months, years, or even decades to acquire.
  • Grit requires showing up and having daily, deliberate practice. Grit is driven by expectations, value and cost.
  • The acquisition of skill over a long period of time is documented by Ericsson in a graph that plots skill as a function of deliberate practice. Hence the widely quoted, it takes 10,000 hours to acquire a skill.
  • Deliberate practice requires setting a specific stretch goal in which you must pay total attention. It needs immediate feedback, and repetition until you become fluent.
  • Martha Graham states that it takes 10 years to make a mature dancer.
  • In studying contestants for the National Spelling Bee, you find that practice is hard and not much fun—it’s a function of grit.
  • Deliberate practice involves failure, practice is frustrating.
  • By teaching about deliberate practice, it changes student behavior. It reliably increases the grades of low achieving students.
David Yeager spoke on Belonging, Trust and the Risk of Effort.
  • Students ask, “is the effort worth it, based of the feeling of safety.” Will a teacher crap on all my work—are they viewing me as an idiot?
  • As a teacher, you want to provide global encouragement, but provide tangible feedback, e.g. give more detail. You want wise feedback—I have high standards and I know you can meet them.
  • As a control, placebo comments were provided, “I’m giving you comments so you have feedback on your essay.”
  • For white teachers teaching white kids, wise feedback increased student performance from 62% —> 87%. But for white teachers teaching black kids, the change was 17% —> 72%.
  • This also translated to a reduction in discipline incidents for black students.
  • Another experiment was improving the retention of students transitioning to college. Often black and Latino students drop out and never graduate, leaving them with substantial debt.
  • A questionnaire was provided that help set the expectations of these students.
  • For a sample of 333 black students, without the questionnaire, 61% started, then in subsequent semesters, there was 55%, 41%, 33%, 33%. With the questionnaire, retention at semesters 3, 4, and 5 was 49%, 44% and 43%; a substantial improvement.
  • For a sample of 1060 Latino students, without it was 51%, 52%, 40%. With the questionnaire, retention was 57%, 54%, and 48%.
  • There was a question and answer. Angela noted that you want to change students perception of effort. Grit is not all you need, often there are other things which must be first addressed.
  • In sports and music, coaching is necessary.
  • In some cases, students have a learning disability. It is tough to do some things for these kids. Switching strategies and learning to ask for help are very helpful.
  • Sometimes kids have mental blocks in which they block out learning. They think they are too dumb to learn something, so they don’t.